MOTORS REVIEW: Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Porsche Cayenne DieselPorsche Cayenne Diesel
Porsche Cayenne Diesel
CHILLI and chocolate. Maple syrup and bacon. Balti pies.

Engine: 3-litre, V6 turbo-diesel

Power: 240bhp and 405lb.ft.

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 8.3 seconds and 133mph

Fuel economy: 30.4mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 244g/km

Price: £39,404

Rating: ***

If some food combinations just don't seem right then Porsche and diesel has to be the motor industry's equivalent of some weird Heston Bloomenthal-style taste challenging experiment.

But hitting the streets with as much vigour as the egg-headed gastronome has hit TV screens in recent months is Porsche's Cayenne Diesel.

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Now I aim to discover whether the iconic Stuttgart-based sports car manufacturer's latest addition is as sweet as a Porsche should be...or leaves a bitter aftertaste.

When the Cayenne was launched in 2002 many perceived the creation of a Porsche SUV as folly for a manufacturer that had founded such a strong reputation on seat-of-your-pants sports cars.

Though appearing big and cumbersome, however, the Cayenne proved to be dynamically adept and Porsche proved the doubters wrong when the it became their biggest seller—more than 250,000 have been sold to date.

There's no doubt the Cayenne contributed to the period of unprecedented success which has given Porsche the financial clout to complete its purchase of a controlling share of Volkswagen late last year...which brings us neatly to the Cayenne Diesel.

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Powered by the same 240bhp three-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine that features in Volkswagen's Touareg, it's billed as the Cayenne with a conscience.

Fuel consumption of 30.4mpg looks appealing and CO2 emissions of 244g/km (still meaning £400 annual road tax), though not groundbreaking, are a leap forward for a vehicle with a kerb weight of 2240kg.

With the aid of 405lb.ft. of torque, however, the Cayenne shares the Touareg's ability to accelerate to 62mph in 8.3 seconds, while its 133mph top speed is 6mph up on its Wolfsburg donor.

On paper the stats the diesel's performance is slightly behind the base Cayenne V6 petrol (£36,801 versus £39,404 for the standard diesel) but out on the road its added 121lb.ft. imbue it with an undoubted advantage.

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With the 'Sport' button depressed the Cayenne diesel's tiptronic box and throttle sharpen their responses and brisk progress is made.

Though other sports SUVs have caught up in dynamic terms since 2002 it still impresses through the twisty stuff. Even on my test car's diminuitive-looking 18 inch wheels the Cayenne surprised with its tenacity thanks to Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management (£1,931).

There is also a gruff soundtrack to be had from the diesel but I doubt if any die-hard Porsche fan would approve of the lazy, oil-burning clatter which accompanies hard acceleration or a cold start-up.

Be in no doubt the Cayenne diesel is the absolute antithesis of the growling GTS V8 which has you whooping like a hillbilly on heat every-time a prod of the loud pedal unleashes its NASCAR-style soundtrack.

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At a steady cruise the diesel's trump card is not only its relative economy, however, but the fact that it is probably Porsche's most refined cruiser (pending the arrival of the Panamera GT, no doubt).

Outright comfort is not quite up there with the likes of the Range Rover Sport or Audi Q7 though.

The layout is simple and crisp in an unflashy and functional, Porsche kind of way, but some of the plastics feel a little low rent and I find myself wondering how many elephants had to be skinned to create the unusually textured dashboard...

Elsewhere, the stitched leather is certainly up to scratch, and general fit and build quality is impressive.

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It's hard to say the Cayenne diesel is an out-and-out master stroke.

It makes Porsche's SUV a more practical prospect, sure, but it feels like a unashamed attempt to milk a few more sales before a revised version is introduced and again there is a sense that the distinctive and potent taste of the Porsche range is being diluted as a result.

The Cayenne diesel moves Porsche in a direction it must be seen to be moving in, producing greener, more economical cars though, and if it secures the funds Porsche needs to continue turning out 911s, Caymans and Boxsters in the current financial climate, I'm all for it.

**If buying a Porsche was ever about vanity then my test car certainly put that theory to the test with a full-sized spare wheel strapped to the rear end with a heavy-duty brace.

Not only do you have to swing it out each time you want to access the sizable (958 litre) boot, it also costs £904. Never has it been so easy to save money from Porsche's extensive options list...

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